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How To Recycle: From A to Z (Literally)

This an A through Z guide to recycling!

The number of jobs created buy incinerating 10,000 tons (20,000,000 pounds) of waste is only one. If that same 10,000 tons of waste was sent to a landfill for disposal it would create a whooping six jobs. But if those 10,000 tons of so-called waste material was recycled we could quadruple the amount of jobs from the landfill and employee thirty-six people (EPA, "Resource Conservation Challenge: Campaigning Against Waste," EPA 530-F-02-033, 2002)

I could flood this blog with statistics about the benefits of recycling that include reducing our dependency on foreign oil, reducing the amount of energy we use (which would in turn reduce the amount of  needed). I could also talk about all the environmental benefits of reducing waste, reducing plastic consumption, and recycling.

The fact that the recycling rates in the United States are rising, shows that most people are recycling. But until the rates are at one hundred percent we are not recycling enough. The following is a list of ways to :

A: Aluminum Cans – Aluminum cans are really easy to recycle and doing so can make you money! You can save up your aluminum cans (as well as your plastic bottles) and take them into a buy back center. There is a place in Santee that buys them back at $1.95 a pound and although I haven’t been there, that is good money. If save your cans and bottles doesn’t sound like something you’d want to do you can just put the cans (and bottles) right into your blue recycling bin that you out at the street every week.

B: Batteries – It many places it is illegal to dispose of batteries in the landfill. That is a good thing because you don’t want heavy metals to leech into the ground water. To recycle old rechargeable from tools or what have you, most hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes have collection spots for them. To recycle car batteries you can take them to an auto parts store. It is a little harder to find a spot that takes the normal everyday non-recharge able batteries however you can take them to the Waste Management Transfer Center off of Johnson in El Cajon.

C:  – If you a gardener you know how much plants love fresh compost. The Master Gardner’s of San Diego often will have classes to teach you how to compost at home. If you are a landscaper who is unaware of the benefits of healthy compost, add some to your favorite plants and watch them flourish. Compost is a good way to get rid of your weeds, kitchen scraps, and yard trimming in a sustainable way.

D:  – It is not only illegal to throw away or flush old medications down the toilet but is extremely harmful to the environment and with the epidemic of teenage youths misusing prescription medications you don’t want to leave them lying around in your house. To properly dispose of your medications ask your pharmacist if they have a take back program, if they don’t encourage them to start one. Otherwise you can take them to the San Diego Sheriff Station.

E: Eyeglasses - It is possible to recycle your old prescription eyeglasses. Goodwill recycles them and I have seen collection boxes at the eyeglass center at Wal-Mart. Some Lion's Clubs collect them too, so check with the local branch.

F: FreeCycle – According to their website, The FreeCycle Network is a is made up of 5,031 groups with 8,882,445 members around the world. What it is a place where you can get free things as well as give thing you no longer want away for free. It is sort of like CraigsList (which is also a great asset for recycling) but everything is given and gotten away for free! The San Diego chapter is here, membership is free.

G: Grasscycle – If you are an Americans chances are you have a lawn. In fact North Americans now devote about 40,000 square miles to lawns and use ninety million pounds of fertilizer a year. One thing you can do to improve your lawn with natural free fertilizer is remove the bag when you mow. Leaving the grass clipping on your lawn does two things (1) as the clipping decompose they add nitrogen (what your lawn needs to be nice and green) to the soil. And, (2) the clippings shade the soil stopping the sun from hitting it and drying it up making you water it more. That is the same reason why you should allow your grass to stay a little taller. Raise the blade on your mower and you will have to water less because the soil will dry out slower.

H: Hazardous Waste – You may not think about it but, hazardous waste has made its way into the American Home and it is there to stay; if you let it. Hazardous wastes include things like chemical pesticides and fertilizers, paints, oil, anti-freeze, spray paint, cleaning products like chlorine for pools, bleach, degreasers and the list goes on. This are not things you want to just send to a landfill because they are not things you want to contaminate the ground water or the soil. To properly dispose of hazardous waste it needs to be taken to a hazardous waste facility like the Waste Management Transfer Center off of Johnson in El Cajon.

I: Ink – Ink cartridges are easy to recycle. At Office Depot and Staples you can even get store credit for taking them in to those stores. It takes three pounds of resources to one ink cartridge. It takes 1,000 years for a cartridge to decompose even more when it is inside a landfill. Each year 300 million of these cartridges are thrown away. This amounts to 75,000 tons of trash.

J: Junk Mail – Junk mail is a nuisance aside from the occasional coupon you might want to use but don’t get to befohttp://santee.patch.com/blog_posts/newre it expires it can all go straight into your blue recycling bin. But that doesn’t stop the printers from cutting down forests to make the paper on which it is printer. And a lot of the inks that they use can be toxic. To sign up to stop getting junk mail you can go here. If you are serious about stopping the receiving of junk mail you can contact companies that sending you junk mail and asking them to stop sending you junk.

K: Kitchen Scraps – If you cook a lot chances are you have lots of ends and peels from fruits and veggies. These scraps should absolutely not go into the landfill. They aren’t toxic but they are valuable. Kitchen scraps are organic material that can be composted and made into excellent soil amendment. There are lots of ways you can break them down. You can add them to your compost (see C) or you can start a vermicompost bin (see V). If neither of that sound like something you want to do you can put them in you green bin that you take to the street every week. They will be composted.

L: Litter – Even with all the anti-litter campaigns it still seems like people do it. Freeways are covered with garbage, various places have litter on the sidewalks and our parks and waterways are filled with litter! It is sad. But you can help; groups like I Love a Clean San DiegoThe San Diego River Park Foundation, Keeper and Surf Rider all have litter clean up events all the time. But don’t wait for an organized event to do the right thing. Every time you go hiking, for a walk, or to walk your dog bring a small bag to pick up trash with. You don’t have to get it all but if we get it little by little eventually it will be gone.

M: Metal – All metal can be recycled in some way. It is probably the easiest material to recycle because they just re-melt it into something else. Steel cans and aluminum soda cans can go into your curbside blue bin. Buy back centers will buy steel, aluminum, copper and things like that. But what about things like yogurt lids, tin foil, and other scraps that they won’t buy back at a recycling center? Well you can take it to the Waste Management Transfer Center off of Johnson in El Cajon. They have a bin for mixed metal you can put anything made of metal large or small in there and they will recycle it. 
They also have a similar bin for mixed plastic. You can go there and drop any garbage made of plastic in the bin so it can be recycled. Both the mixed metal and the mixed plastic are free to use. 
At my house (and I started this at my work) we started sorting metal, plastic, blue bin. When the metal and plastic bins get full we take them in to the Waste Management Transfer Center where they can be handled properly and more sustainably.

N: Needles – Hypodermic needles don’t cross your mind ever, unless you are someone who uses them for medication (Insulin for example). These are considered medical waste and therefore need to be disposed of properly you can do that at some hospitals, or you can take them to the Waste Management Transfer Center off of Johnson in El Cajon. They have a bin where you can just walk up and drop them off for free, no questions asked. They only ask that they be sealed inside a container.

O:  – Oil is simple to recycle. Just take it to any auto store they all recycle it along with oil filters and car batteries. Here is a list of close by ones. Oil companies have done their best to fill the ocean with as much oil as possible so it is important that the citizens do their best to curb oil pollutions, this can be done by recycling and by reusing a piece of cardboard when changing your own oil (in case of dripping).

P:  – Most grocery stores and Big Box stores have a collection bin near the front door for plastic shopping bags. You should just save them up in a bag and bring them with you on your next trip to the store, where you can either re-use them (better) or recycle them (good). But the best thing you can do is “Ban the Bag” and switch to all reusable cloth bags. Each year, approximately 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That's over one million bags per minute. Billions of them end up as litter each year. That is about 60,000 plastic bags every second.

Q: Light bulbs – Before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb he invented the Quadruplex telegrapgh. That is pretty much the only way I can relate the letter Q to light bulbs. Those who care to save money on their electric bill have evolved to use light bulbs like compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). CFLs can be recycled in a lot of different places, Home Depot, Lowes, and the _the Waste Management Transfer Center off of Johnson in El Cajon all have CFL collection bins. 

R: Recycling Bins – We are lucky to have a recycling collection system that picks up out recyclables straight from our house on a weekly basis. We should take advantage of this service and use it to its full potential. You should be sorting all of your recyclable paper, cardboard, cans and bottles and putting them into the blue bin. Don’t throw recyclable materials into the garbage bin its uneconomical, it’s bad for the environment and it is just as easy to put the recyclables in the blue bin.

S: Shoes – Got an old pair of shoes? If they are still usable drop them off at one of the thrift stores in Santee or one of the many clothes collection bins. If they are unusable, Nike has a program, Reuse-a-Shoe where you can recycle them into new running and new shoes. The closest drop-off location is at the Nike Store on Friars Lastly, you can also mail your shoes to the address here.

T: TVs – It seems like every weekend there is some place somewhere having an electronic waste-recycling event. You can recycle everything from old TVs, computer monitors, printers and faxes and even small things like cell phones and broken digital cameras. Some cell phone stores (and Target) have cell phone recycling bins or you can try to sell it at on of the new kiosks. If you have a few electronics you just want to get rid of you can take them to _the Waste Management Transfer Center off of Johnson in El Cajon for free.

U: Urine – Your pee is liquid gold to plants. When added directly to your compost it has a 1:30 carbon to nitrogen ratio, meaning it is a great activator for the composting process! You can also pee in a bucket and water it down, anywhere from 1:5 to 1:30 (pee to water) whatever your comfort level is, and then add it to plants. It is a free organic, pathogen free nitrogen fertilizer! If you are growing edible plants don’t put it on the part you eat. Carol Steinfeld wrote a book called, Plants was started to raise awareness on the benefits of using urine and saving water by not flushing this precious resource way. 

V: Vermicompost - Vermi, Latin for worm. Compost, the organic material left over after the decomposition process. Vermicomposting, the act of using worms to compost. Worms can eat their weight in food in one day. There are many guides on how to start a worm bin to vermicompost but essentially all you need is a box and bedding material. Plastic Rubbermaid bins are the best for a DIY bin or you can buy bins too_. Bedding material can be coir (made from coconut) or dried horse manure. The worms you want to use are called Red Worms, you maybe able to buy them at a fishing store, just make sure they are red worms, or you can buy them online. Once you add the bedding material and your worms you can add all your kitchen scraps and watch them disappear. Once they are composted they will become a powerful organic fertilizer as well as an excellent compost tea. The Worm Bin, a Yahoo Group, is a group dedicated to talking about nothing but worm composting and is a good resource for information, unfortunately though the group has been archived. 

W: Wastewater - 95% of the water we use indoors goes down the drain. This graphic breaks down the information to explain why saving water in the home is great. Thing you can do to conserve water include:

  • catching water in a bucket while you wait for shower or bath water to warm up, then using it in your garden or to flush your toilet. 
  • turning the facet off while you brush your teeth and shave.
  • for more then just two simple ideas check out _Dam’s site and _Diego’s website. The latter has room-by-room guide to water saving ideas. 

X: X-Rays - These films contain small amounts of silver, which is hazardous even in minute quantities. Unfortunately I was unable to find anywhere around here to recycle them. Let us know in the comments if you find a place.

Y: Yard Trimmings – Just like we are lucky we have a recycling system that comes to our homes we are lucky we have a way to sustainably get rid of yard waste. You can put all your yard waste, lawn clippings (see G), tree trimmings, weeds and kitchen scraps (see V) right into your green bin. It will be taken to an industrial sized composting facility where you can go pick up nearly _free compost or mulch_.

Z: Ziploc Bags – Wash and reuse them if you can but when they get old you can put them in the plastic bag recycling bins at stores (see P).

Also read:

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Alan Stuart July 02, 2012 at 05:46 PM
ADDENDA: I found a new link sent to me from I Love A Clean San Diego. The link is a "One Stop Recycling Resource" fill it out with whatever type of item you want to recycle and it will tell you how! http://www.ilacsd.org/recycle/index.php Santee is facing a landfill expansion so it is even more important then ever that we recycle because not recycling is directly effecting people who live in Santee.
Alan Stuart July 06, 2012 at 12:11 AM
ADDENDA 2: How to recycle wine corks: Whole Foods partnered with Cork ReHarvest.org so you can drop off your old corks there! http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2010/04/cork-reharvest/ Also since cork is a natural wood you can put them in your green bin. But it is better that they be re-purposed instead of just composted.

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